Today I thought I’d write a special blog post dedicated to reggae music. Reggae has long since been a genre of music that I enjoy, but in the past year I have had an increased interest in it. I can attribute much of the reggae renascence in my life to my girlfriend and her father, both of whom are avid reggae fans and have profoundly affected what I listen to on a day to day basis.
Reggae music as we know it was born from the progressive development of ska and rocksteady in 1960′s Jamaica. Reggae was also strongly influenced by traditional African, American jazz and old-time rhythm and blues music. Reggae is either played in 4/4 time or swing time and one of the most easily recognizable elements of Reggae is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure, often referred to as the ‘skank’. One of my favorite artists from the early stages of reggae’s evolution is Desmond Dekker and his band The Aces. I simply love the songs, the rhythm and the irresistible groove of Dekker’s music, especially in his early recordings.
Reggae’s birth and growth owes a great deal to the Rastafari movement in Jamaica. Rasta is a spiritual movement that first surfaced in Jamaica in the 1930s. Most of its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), as the reincarnation of Jesus.
The Rastafari movement encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of western society, called Babylon. Africa is thought to be the original birthplace of mankind, and from the beginning of the movement the call to repatriation to Africa has been a central theme.
Rastafari see cannabis as a sacramental and deeply beneficial plant. They believe cannabis to be the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible. Amidst countless other Rastas, Bob Marley has quoted Revelation: 22:2, “… the herb is the healing of the nations.”
Rastafari is not a highly organized religion; it is a movement and an ideology. Many Rastas say that it is not a “religion” at all, but a “Way of Life”. Often Rastas do not claim any sect or denomination but instead encourage one another to find faith and inspiration within themselves.
Reggae music has always has always been associated with Rasta and is the foundation of the spiritual and political conscience of Reggae. Something that I have always admired about Reggae is that there are responsibilities of social conscience associated with the music. Reggae includes universal themes that often suggest the pursuit of spiritual emancipation.
Some of my favorite Reggae artists include: Wingless Angels, Desmond Dekker and the Aces, Barrington Levy, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh and Chris Isaac.
Some of the reasons I love Reggae music: The rhythm, the groove, the Rasta, social conscience and political responsibility, universal themes, peacefulness, relaxed vibes and dance-ability!
Give me a ‘Jah man!’ if you love reggae music too!